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My Top 5 Showtunes: Tori Allen-Martin

The actress picks the musical numbers she couldn't live without

Tori Allen-Martin
© Darren Bell

A singer-songwriter, Tori Allen-Martin has recently appeared on three tracks on Idris Elba's "mi Mandela" album. Tori's work includes the musical Streets which played The Cockpit Theatre, Hackney Empire and The Vaults.

A concert production of her latest project, Muted, plays at The Actors Church on 4 February. Click here for more information.

We caught up with Tori and asked her: "If you were stranded on a desert island which five showtunes could you not live without?"

1. "Being Alive" from Company

TAM: I just think this is a brilliant piece of writing. If I had to explain to an alien what Musical Theatre was about, this would be one of my picks. The orchestration, the build, the emotion, the words, the excitement, everything connects, it hangs together so perfectly and takes you on a journey. You come in one door and leave out another. My favourite versions would be by Bernadette Peters (live) or Adrian Lester's fearless performance in the Donmar's 1996 production of Company (which I think was perfect). I can't watch his rendition without sobbing.

That might be what I love most about the song, and about so much of Sondehiem's work. They're actors' songs. They may have beautiful melodies or big notes but they are completely up for grabs when it comes to interpretation. It's all there, the music marries with the lyric always, it'll swell when you want it to, hush when you need it to, you just have to connect whole heartedly and let rip. It's a gift of a song just screaming out for the performer to be brave, and I think Adrian Lester couldn't have nailed it any harder!

2."She Used To Be Mine" from What's Inside: Songs from Waitress

TAM: I am OBSESSED with this whole album and now with Sara Bareilles in general. I know it's not technically the show version, but these are the songs from the show and I think this cross-over approach and appeal is the direction new musical theatre should be heading in. I really think records like this one will help people who turn their noses up at ‘Musical Theatre' to understand that it's actually, more than anything else, just about story telling, connection, emotion. It's about feeling something, and sometimes setting the things we feel we can't say to music.

I picked "She Used To Be Mine" because I've definitely been there. It's one of those ones I heard and burst into tears over because it hit such a nerve, a real ‘killing me softly' moment.

3. "Home" from The Wiz

TAM: The first main part I ever played at Youth Theatre Workshops in Epsom where this bug started, was Dorothy in The Wiz. I'd never sung in public before, and there I was, just turned 12 on The Epsom Playhouse stage, a couple of weeks after I'd lost my best friend, my Grandpa, singing this song and finding that everything just clicked, all of a sudden. I burst into tears right after. I realised then that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. So this song will always be so special to me, but apart from my personal passion for it, I just think it's a beautiful, beautiful piece of music.

I want to share Jazmine Sullivan's school production version of this, when she was aged just 11. The riffs she chucks on it at the end are disgusting. You just have to hear them to believe them. Incredible. That's raw talent right there. So inspiring.

4. "Without You" from Rent

TAM: I think Rent was what got me properly obsessed with musical theatre, and also with this need for it to represent what I see around me. I was born in New York and I still very much have roots planted there, and I lost a lot of people I loved to AIDS. My Mum lost pretty much all of her best friends, these beautiful people, incredible characters just wiped out, pretty much overnight. None of them saw it coming. So Rent has always touched me in that capacity because I think Larson captures it so perfectly with the Angel and Collins love story.

I think "Without You" just sums up heartbreak so beautifully, completely counterbalancing a relationship breakdown with death. I met Daphne Ruben Vega at a gig I did in New York and she asked me to hold her earring while she sorted her hair. I nearly died. I was like ‘I'M HOLDING MIMI'S EARRING'. I rarely fangirl, but that was a big deal for me.

5. "And I Am Telling You" from ''Dreamgirls

TAM: I know a lot of people have picked this but it is just such a classic! I'm pretty much obsessed with this song. I just love big moment songs, bring the house down moments, because that's when the rush comes with theatre isn't it? That's the magic of it, that you have to be there to actually witness it, to properly feel it. So I am really excited to see this show live one day.

The desperation in this song is what gets me, and Jennifer Holliday kills it. I get goosebumps all over my body from 6 minutes in until the end of this version. She's singing from somewhere OTHER. She just rips her heart out and drops it on the floor in front of you, like ‘bam'. You just have to shake your head because quite frankly there are no words. Special. Special song, special lady.

My Mum saw her do this live in Broadway, and my Mum is my favourite thing on the planet but I feel quite aggressively jealous about that fact. I don't know if I can ever forgive her! ;)